10 things you need to know about e-commerce in France

14 June, 2017

What are the opportunities and challenges for French e-commerce? From mobile retail to free shipping, Manuel Bonnin, head of industry e-commerce and distance selling at Asendia, shares his insights.

France is opening up to international e-commerce. Manuel Bonnin, head of industry e-commerce and distance selling at Asendia, offers some dos and don’ts for businesses looking to target the market.

1. It’s the third biggest e-commerce market – and it’s growing

France is Europe’s third biggest e-commerce market, (and sixth in the world) notching up €72bn in sales in 2016. In terms of France’s retail market share, it is the fifth-biggest e-commerce market in Europe, behind the UK, Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands. E-commerce in France accounts for just under 3 per cent of the country’s GDP – one of the highest rates in Europe. There are now about 200,000 active online stores in France – 12 per cent more than there were in 2015.

2. Internet use underpins the market

Some 47 million people in France – 87 per cent of the population – are internet users, while 62 per cent use a smartphone. According to recent statistics, mobile accounts for about 15 per cent of online sales in the country. The use of mobile devices for online shopping and online payments is accelerating and boosting website traffic for retailers. Take Ventes Privées.com : mobile accounts for more than half % of its audience. In 2016, the value of mobile commerce reached €9.9bn. Expect to see more French companies reporting higher revenues through smartphones than via desktops.

3. Clothing and footwear lead the way

Clothing and footwear lead product sales in France, while travel is the main service that its consumers buy online. However, elsewhere, France is seeing rapid growth in areas that were previously less popular. For instance, online grocery in France grew by almost 23 per cent in 2015, while home and garden category jumped by 25 per cent to almost €3bn.

4. France’s online marketplace is crowded

France’s e-commerce market is a tough market to crack due to the strength of local retail brands such as Fnac, Carrefour, Leclerc, Leroy Merlin and Darty, and pure players like cdiscount and Ventes Privées. However, some of the biggest online retailers Amazon, Zalando, Alibaba, Ebay, Asoc are finding increasing favour with French consumers who are looking for price benefits when shopping online.

5. Convenience is driving innovation

Several companies are launching new online shopping products and services to boost convenience for French shoppers. Bic, for example, recently launched a €5 per month razor subscription service, delivering shavers and refillable cartridges direct-to-door. Meanwhile, Amazon, launched its Prime offering in France in 2016, bringing the country up to date with the rest of western Europe.

6. Online payment methods are excellent

France’s payment infrastructure is a major growth driver for e-commerce and mobile retail – particularly the Carte Bancaire (debit card) system. More than 94 per cent of the French population aged above 15 years has a Carte Bancaire card and over 63 million cards have been issued. Along with CB, there are about 8 million PayPal accounts in France.

7. Language matters in France

According to the Ecommerce Foundation, “A website in a foreign language or badly translated into French has little chance of succeeding”. Most consumers expect a localised service, so translate your website, or at least include a translation option – and tie that in with your local advertising. SEO is also critical: About 70 per cent of French e-commerce users expect to see what they want at the top of the page in search engine results, according to online shopping statistics [Source: Search Laboratory], so make sure your website is optimised.

8. France is bound by EU regulations

A customer/importer may have to pay VAT, customs duties and/or excise duties on goods imported into France before they can obtain them, and the applicable taxes and duties depend upon whether the goods are sent from inside or outside the EU. France’s VAT rate is in line with the UK (20%) and many other European countries but its customs landscape can be challenging, so it is important to seek advice.

9. Tracking international mail counts

Anecdotal evidence suggests that French consumers expect full visibility of their order – email and website-based tools are important here. Home delivery is still the preferred method of delivery in the country, followed by PickUp DropOff (PUDO) delivery. French consumers want the best international shipping and more and more flexible delivery options.

10. Free shipping is a plus

And a growing number expect it. So, considerations of cost, timeliness, service and efficiency are all likely to take up a lot of management time. But despite the complexity and demanding nature of the market, France’s growing embrace of e-commerce shows no signs of waning.

[Source: Ecommerce Europe]

For more insights on how Asendia can help you find e-commerce success in France, visit our page on Destination France.


Manuel Bonnin

Head of Industry E-Commerce & Distance Selling, Asendia Management

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